General Scientific Interests
I often ask myself what I'd be doing if not for this. Honestly, it's a question for infinite rumination and just a little day dreaming. Here are some random thoughts on the subject...
I found myself interested in water and the environment at a fairly young age, and with a vague notion of that general direction, decided to work as an engineer, figuring that it was the engineers that go to do the coolest stuff and make th biggest difference when it comes to how we make use of the resources we have. Ironically, it was 4 nose-to-the grind years of engineered solutions to environmental problems that had me clamoring for more science, more environment, more ecology. I think the key fact in figuring out why I am here rather than, say, working as a consulting engineer is that I found something tantalizing in the way that processes almost conspire to make life. While the logical traps of Gaia, intelligent design and teleology are ever present, there is something profoundly exciting about considering the way the system fits together.
Take water...the critical physical attributes of water (polarity, latent heat capacity, temperature-density relation) and the persistence of life are inextricably linked in ways that are so fundamental as to make them seem implanted. And yet...we infer from the continuous unfolding of the ecological process that these relationships are learned (at least insofar as we can attribute the concept of learning to emergent systems). So it was that a set of books and ideas read naively (perhaps still so) during high school led me to systems ecology - Fritjof Capra, Stephen J. Gould, Richard Dawkins, Tim Allen (no...not the tool guy), self-organization, emergence, cascading consequences.
So when I consider what I might have done differently, I don't stray far from the present. I am simply motivated by the belief that there is order in the chaos - perhaps not tracatable and predictable, but comprehensible. And while the day to day machinations of water and biogeochemistry occupy my mind with more mundane and applied questions, at the root of my work is a desire to understand how systems work.